Biker Groups Want to Curb Helmet Enforcement

Our Chicago motorcycle injury attorneys warn that while the number of deaths on U.S. highways and roads is at the lowest point in half a century, this figure does not include motorcycle fatalities. Helmets are one of the best ways to save biker’s lives, but motorcyclists are reportedly putting their safety at risk by asking regulators and lawmakers to refrain from enforcing helmet laws.

A FairWarning article published earlier this year reports that the number of deaths from motorcycle crashes more than doubled from the mid-1990s onwards. In 1997, one in every 20 traffic deaths was that of a motorcycle rider. In 2010, one in every 7 traffic deaths was that of a motorcycle rider.

Despite these alarming statistics, biker groups are surprisingly arguing that helmet laws restrict personal freedom and that the federal government should focus on rider training to avert crashes.

If lobbyists and congressional supporters of these biker groups had their way, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) would be obstructed in its efforts to reduce the number of motorcycle rider fatalities. The agency would not be able to give out any more grants to states to conduct highway stops of motorcyclists to inspect for safety breaches such as wearing helmets that don’t meet federal standards.

The bikers’ lobbyists are supported by big names in the motorcycle manufacturing industry, along with grassroots activists and other influential groups. They have already overturned a measure by lawmakers to reintroduce monetary levies on states that failed to enforce helmet laws.

Research shows that compulsory helmet laws help to prevent deadly accidents. Unfortunately, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have such helmet laws. This is in contrast to 47 states in the latter half of the 1970s.

Currently, 28 states have laws that call for only certain motorcyclists to wear a helmet. 3 states – New Hampshire, Iowa and Illinois – have no law governing motorcycle helmet use.

The NHTSA reported that the protective head gear saved close to 1500 lives in 2009 and that 732 more deaths could have been prevented if all riders had worn helmets.

Regarding the training the bikers’ groups were asking for, it cannot be categorically stated that training helps to bring down the number of collisions or deaths. Take for example the findings of a 2007 Indiana study which shows that riders who finished a fundamental training course stood a 44 percent greater chance of being involved in an accident when compared to untrained riders. Researchers presumed this was because the training gave riders unnecessary confidence that led to them taking more risks.

Other studies reveal that although training assists riders with clearing basic skills tests, the trained riders stand the same possibility of getting involved in a crash as their untrained counterparts, following six months of driving. The president of an industry funded foundation that developed the training materials most extensively used in the US speculated that this may be because the training did not modify a person’s innate tendencies for the long term.

The contradiction between what biker groups are pushing for and what the majority of safety experts believes irks public health advocates. The President of the Brain Injury Association of Michigan opined that the demand of the riders for personal freedom would have socially objectionable outcomes if it reached the logical extreme.

The fact that motorcyclists are evading safety regulations shows that the libertarian message of a vocal minority of riders holds good sway with legislators both inside and outside the Beltway. What’s more, major motorcycle manufacturers support their demands. Though these manufacturers usually encourage the use of helmets, they support the bikers’ lobbyists out of reluctance to upset their customers.

We at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm advise motorcyclists to practice safe driving. If you or someone close to you was involved in a motorcycle crash, talk to a motorcycle accident lawyer to start the legal process.

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